Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Haiti Revisited

So last summer (2010) we went on a cruise. We had a great time.

One of the places we stopped was in Labadee, Haiti. It's a private beach where the ship comes in and everyone from the biggest boat in the world (yes, really) gets off the ship to enjoy the beauty and splendor that is Haiti. Luxury. Extravagance.


Haiti. Yeah. There was a tremendous earthquake there early in 2010. Shortly after the cruise line anticipated the questions and concerns of people who were planning vacations including a stop on the island later in the year. I did not keep the email we received but the gist of it was that we need not worry. In the months after the earthquake the cruise line would be helping the people of Haiti to recover. They said the cruise line played an important part in helping the nation recover to where it was before. As a matter of fact, every ship that stopped on the island would be delivering needed supplies and equipment.

That all sounds good, right?

Maybe. But then today I read this article about Peanut Butter Medicine and realize that it's a bunch of baloney.

Every day there are kids and families suffering on that island because they don't have what they need. Not because they don't get to join the soccer team, or because they don't have an iPod or the right shoes. They are dying because they don't have a place to live. They don't have food. It makes me sick to my stomach.

The area where the ship lands is on the far opposite side of the island from where the earthquake hit. There was no damage there. Other than the wounded spirits of the people.

While we were in Haiti we took a tour of the area with a local guide. He KNEW his country's history. He KNEW more about Haiti than Jon and I probably knew together about US history. It was amazing to listen to him talk about his country and hear the obvious pride in his nation and it's people.

He told us about his family and where he sleeps at night. He told us how he and the men of his family live away from the women. The women stay in the city so the kids can go to school. The men live close to the area where the ship lands so that they can work and send money back to the city so the kids can go to school.

This is the part that really got me. The cruise line gives the men a loan in the beginning of the season (or school year) so that they have enough to pay for school. Then, get this, the men work to pay off the loan. Think about that a minute.

Sounds like indentured servitude to me.

Again, while we were on the island, we contributed significantly to the local economy. If you've ever been on a trip like this you know it's hard not to. The people in the market will literally grab you to pull you into their stand to look at what they are selling. They literally competed for our dollars. I don't find it fun.

I bought a necklace. The one I really wanted broke when I picked it up. So I bought another I thought Sarah would like.

I bought a couple small pieces of art. They've since gone to Goodwill.

I bought Sarah a small doll. Because it was cute and I wanted to spend some money with the guy in that vendor space. He was nice and didn't grab me.

Ya know, I'm not really sure how to wrap up this rant, other than to say that I know God is at work in Haiti. I know God is at work in the lives of everyone working at the cruise line. I know God is at work in the lives of everyone traveling on cruises.

I would really love to see the cruise lines pay the workers appropriately. They should pay a wage that would allow the people to live well and to pay for school. They shouldn't pay in a way so that the people are indebted to them. That sucks all around.

And - I really would love to know that things were getting better in Haiti almost two years after the horrible earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people. I'm sure there are pockets of improvement.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for those articles now. I'll find some and post them later this week.

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